Each restaurant can no longer be treated as one uniform entity.
Rather, today’s hospitality businesses are essentially juggling multiple operational models under one roof: from providing hospitable on-premise dining experiences to delivering speedy off-premises orders. 60 percent of Americans order delivery at least once per week, and fast food chains report nearly two-thirds of their sales coming through drive-thru, which generates billions of dollars for the industry each month.
Needless to say, it can be incredibly challenging. From the overnight shift into off-premises ordering to now the return of dine-in experiences, what consumers used to value the most—yes, food—sometimes can take a backseat depending on how they order.
It’s therefore absolutely essential for restaurant managers and operators to add one thing to their ammunition: data. Specifically, customer experience and satisfaction data. It is the single source of truth that keeps you on track to providing what your customers uniquely want.
Over the last 12 months, over 200 restaurant brands across 9,000-plus locations have collected 10-plus million customer feedback survey submissions using Tattle—that’s over 1 billion feedback data points on guest satisfaction. We’ve summarized some key insights and trends in Tattle’s latest 2022 Annual Restaurant Report, and wanted to offer a bit of insight into what we found.
Dine-in is here to stay.
Data shows that total off-premises orders are only 9 percent higher than their pre-pandemic levels as a share of all restaurant orders.
Does it mean the off-premises craze is over?
One thing is for sure—no off-premises channel can beat the overall satisfaction your customers experience when dining in. The overall CER (Customer Experience Rating, what Tattle uses to assess a brand’s overall guest satisfaction) is by far the highest in the dine-in channel compared to off-premises channels. It’s leading the next best channel, takeout, by about 7 percent, and leading the lagging channel, delivery, by 16.3percent.
In addition, dine-in shows the most consistent performance over the year, fluctuating within just one percentage point. In comparison, drive-thru has the biggest fluctuations within 6 percentage points.
Consumers are increasingly unhappy with the value they’re getting.
The most dramatic deterioration in performance goes to — value.
This graph highlights trends in guest satisfaction across the most commonly surveyed operational categories. Value plummeted since May, dropping 5 percentage points over the past year. (As a side note, “ordering process” has typically been the top performing operational category across all ordering channels.)
Customer satisfaction is ultimately a function of reality minus expectation. When a guest gives a low satisfaction score to an operational category, it could be the experience was objectively less than ideal, or the customer holds high expectations, or both. In the case of “value”, we can easily find lots of macroeconomic explanations: inflation leading to both a lower consumer purchasing power and higher menu prices; labor shortage; the pandemic … the list could go on and on. However, it could also be that customers are expecting more from their meals—maybe they’re now comparing the value of a restaurant order to that of a grocery run; maybe they’re expecting a higher quality and better services for the same amount of money they spend.
Either way, there’s a shift to an emphasis on value as a result. For example, Papa Johns recently started pushing value this summer, offering any two from a selection of menu items for $6.99 apiece, a pivot from the company’s previous focus on convincing consumers to order more expensive items.
Be it the inevitable occurrence under the current economic climate, or a shift in consumer mindset, it seems that restaurant brands can’t simply ignore the topic of value anytime soon.
Order accuracy remains a big problem in off-premises channels.
Besides “value,” “order accuracy” tends to be one of the lowest-performing operational categories across off-premises channels (takeout, curbside, delivery). This graph shows that dine-in is leading the next best channel, drive-thru, by at least 0.5 points (on a 1–5 point scale), and delivery is lagging far behind all the other channels.
Accuracy is a tricky area that’s hard to perfect, and has long been a challenge for many brands—even a quick-service giant like Wendy’s. The secret here is to understand exactly what’s going wrong in the “accuracy” equation of a restaurant. Sometimes it could be the preparation of a single item (e.g. “build-your-own” menu items tend to be a leading source of accuracy issues), whereas other times it could be a failure to follow special instructions given by the customer.
For example, Blaze Pizza uncovered that their accuracy issues are related to “uneven topping distribution”, and implemented a “triple check policy” to ensure every slice of the pie has all the toppings required. In addition, they use the accuracy score as a key indicator of which menu item should be allocated more marketing budget—because they know that those items would be of a consistently high quality.
What can restaurants do today?
While macro-level data trends are great, what can each restaurant start doing today to ensure a consistently high guest satisfaction?
There are three steps that operators almost can’t avoid:
1. Start collecting high-quality, high-quantity feedback data.
The reason is simple: you won’t be able to understand what your customers need and want without hearing from them first. High-quality data refers to structured, specific and accurate feedback data, rather than rants or ambiguous reviews on social review sites. On top of that, a high quantity of data is also necessary to paint a 360* view of the guest experience across different ordering channels.
2. Identify the lowest-hanging fruit and prioritize.
It can be overwhelming to receive hundreds and thousands of pieces of feedback from customers. Therefore it’s important to analyze and correlate the top improvement opportunity that will most likely improve overall guest satisfaction. Make sure to set that as an objective for location-level teams to follow, so that everybody is aligned on what matters.
3. Monitor any changes closely.
Collecting and acting on guest experience is not a one and done initiative. It requires restaurants to build it into their operational processes and consistently monitor, adjust and improve. Make sure you set regular meetings and review sessions with each General Manager and continuously benchmark each location’s performance across operational categories, ordering channels, dayparts and more.
Alex Beltrani is the CEO and founder of Tattle, the only improvement-focused CXI (Customer Experience Improvement) platform that automatically collects and analyzes guest feedback for multi-unit restaurant brands, and recommends top improvement opportunities at a unit level using proprietary algorithms. The platform is built on an open API and integrates with 30+ POS, ordering and loyalty platforms. Tattle is currently deployed at over 9,000 locations including brands such as Hooters, MOD Pizza, Blaze Pizza, Dave’s Hot Chicken and more.